By Jeremy Rubin
The road to a sixth straight Pac-12 Championship for No. 5 Stanford men’s soccer (13-1-3, 6-1-2 Pac-12) led the Cardinal to No. 1 Washington (14-3-0, 7-2-0 Pac-12) in Seattle in a must-win match. Stanford left the field with a 1-0 victory, which keeps its championship aspirations intact, despite a tightly contested affair.
Coming into the game, Stanford and Washington ranked second and first in the Pac-12 Conference standings with 17 and 21 points, respectively. With just a four-point separation and two games remaining, this match was critical for both sides. Washington defeated Stanford 2-1 in overtime earlier this season on Oct. 3, and another victory for the Huskies would have clinched the championship for them. Instead, Stanford’s win brought its point total to 20 and narrowed the gap between the two teams to one point.
“We started the game very brightly and won a lot more of the individual battles that we didn’t the first time around against Washington,” head coach Jeremy Gunn said. “[Sunday] was a really complete performance.”
Stanford’s freshmen tandem of forward/midfielder Ousseni Bouda and forward Gabe Segal connected for the lone goal in the 42nd minute. Bouda dribbled up the field before firing a pass across the pitch as Segal headed the ball into the back of the net with traffic around him.
“What a great strike from Ousseni,” said Gunn. “At the time, I couldn’t tell whether Gabe had got on it, but he was in the right spot like every good forward should be. It was a great goal.”
That possession led to Bouda’s fifth assist of the season and Segal tied redshirt sophomore forward Zach Ryan for the team-lead with his sixth goal.
Throughout the game, Washington had multiple opportunities to score but were unable to convert.
“It was shields up, rock-solid defending against a team that was throwing everything at us,” Gunn said.
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Thomas was a force to be reckoned with as the last line of defense for the Cardinal. He made five saves, and on the season he has allowed just 0.60 goals per game in his 16 games.
Tempers flared in the 56th minute when sophomore midfielder/defender Ryan Ludwick and Washington goalkeeper Bryce Logan went up for a ball in the air near the Huskies’ goal. Logan came down hard on Ludwick, who crumpled to the ground. Cardinal freshman midfielder Cam Cilley defended Ludwick and pushed Huskies player Christain Soto away, instigating a brief scuffle from both sides. Both Logan and Cilley received yellow cards.
The Huskies were never able to put points on the board despite outshooting Stanford in the game 12-10. Reigning Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week, junior midfielder/defender Logan Panchot, was all over the field and forced numerous turnovers as time expired.
“Today was one of those tough games where we were very good defensively and calmed down enough chances to win the game,” Gunn said.
Washington’s senior midfielder Jaret Townsend came closest to drawing the score even in the 62nd minute, but his header spun just wide across the length of the goal before rolling safely out of bounds.
This win marked the fourth straight for the Cardinal in Seattle, a streak dating back to October 2016.
With Sunday’s victory, Stanford now trails Washington by just a single point in the Pac-12 standings heading into both team’s final games of the season. For the season finale, Stanford will face Cal at home, while Washington will travel to Oregon State. A Cardinal win, coupled with a Huskies loss or draw, would give Stanford the Pac-12 title and extend their conference championship streak dating back to 2014. Both Stanford and Washington could be co-champions with a Cardinal draw and Huskies loss.
“We can’t control whatever happens with other teams, but we can be proud of the way the team’s playing and competing and the way we continue to drive forward,” Gunn said.
The rivalry match against the Golden Bears with championship implications on the line is set for Thursday 7 p.m. at Maloney Field at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.
Contact Jeremy Rubin at jjmrubin ‘at’ stanford.edu.